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Central American squads prepare for Hexagonal
by Paul Kennedy, January 22nd, 2009 7AM



[DIGICEL UNCAF CUP] Central America's regional championship gets underway on Thursday with special attention on the three teams -- Costa Rica, El Salvador and host Honduras -- that will compete in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Costa Rica is the three-time defending champion of the Digicel Uncaf Cup, which will qualify five of the seven teams for the 2009 Gold Cup.

The teams are divided into two groups -- Honduras, El Salvador and the region's two weaklings, Nicaragua and Belize, in Group A and Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama in Group B.

Of the three Hexagonal finalists, only El Salvador, the team that relies the least on foreign-based players, has sent close to its first team.

Mexican coach Carlos de los Cobos added former Cal State Northridge star Edwin Miranda, who was born in El Salvador and raised in the Los Angeles area and now plays for the USL-1's Puerto Rico Islanders.

Honduras called up the Kansas City Wizards' Roger Espinoza for the first time. Espinoza was born in Honduras and moved to Denver as a teenager. Other MLS players in the Catrachos' squad are D.C. United's Ivan Guerrero, New England's Mauricio Castro and Toronto FC's Amado Guevara.

Another U.S. product, Ramon Nunez (Dallas Texans, SMU, FC Dallas and Chivas USA in MLS), has moved to Mexico's Puebla and was not called up for the Uncaf Cup.

Costa Rican coach Rodrigo Kenton says the purpose of the UNCAF is to evaluate players for the Hexagonal. The only Ticos called in from abroad are former MLS defender Daniel Torres and Carlos Johnson from Bryne in Norway and Andy Furtado from Honduran club Marathon.


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